Diadochus of Photiké: Through peace of soul we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit Sunday, May 29 2016 

diadochus-of-photikeOnly the Holy Spirit can purify the intellect, for unless a greater power comes and overthrows the despoiler, what he has taken captive will never be set free (cf Luke 11:21-22).

In every way, therefore, and especially through peace of soul, we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit.

Then we shall have the lamp of spiritual knowledge burning always within us;

and when it is shining constantly in the inner shrine of the soul, not only will the intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] perceive all the dark and bitter attacks of the demons, but these attacks will be greatly weakened when exposed for what they are by that glorious and holy light.

That is why the Apostle says: ‘Do not quench the Spirit’ (1 Thess. 5:19), meaning: ‘Do not grieve the goodness of the Holy Spirit by wicked actions or wicked thoughts, lest you be deprived of this protecting light.’

The Spirit, since He is eternal and life-creating, cannot be quenched; but if He is grieved – that is if He withdraws – He leaves the intellect without the light of spiritual knowledge, dark and full of gloom.

The loving and Holy Spirit of God teaches us, as we have said, that the perceptive faculty natural to our soul is single; indeed, even the five bodily senses differ from each other only because of the body’s varying needs.

But this single faculty of perception is split because of the dislocation which, as a result of Adam’s disobedience, takes place in the intellect through the modes in which the soul now operates.

Thus one side of the soul is carried away by the passionate part in man, and we are then captivated by the good things of this life, but the other side of the soul frequently delights in the activity of the intellect and, as a result, when we practice self-restraint, the intellect longs to pursue heavenly beauty.

If, therefore, we learn persistently to be detached from the good things of this world, we shall be able to unite the earthly appetite of the soul to its spiritual and intellectual aspiration, through the communion of the Holy Spirit who brings this about within us.

For unless His divinity actively illumines the inner shrine of our heart, we shall not be able to taste God’s goodness with the perceptive faculty undivided, that is, with unified aspiration.

Diadochus of Photiké (c.400-before 486): On Spiritual Perfection chs 28-29, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979).

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Diadochus and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

Advertisements

Gregory the Great: The fowls of the air Thursday, Apr 21 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWhence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air (Job 28:20-21).

In Holy Scripture ‘birds’ are sometimes given to be understood in a bad sense, and sometimes in a good sense.

Since by ‘the birds of the air’ occasionally the powers of the air are denoted, being hostile to the settled purposes of good men.

Whence it is said by the mouth of Truth, And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it (Matt. 13:4); in this way, because evil spirits besetting the minds of men, whilst they bring in bad thoughts, pluck the word of life out of the memory.

Hence again it is said to a certain rich man full of proud thoughts; the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head (Matt. 8:20l Luke 9:58).

For foxes are very cunning animals, that hide themselves in ditches and caves; and when they face the light, they never run in straight courses, but always by crooked doublings. But the birds as we know with lofty flight lift themselves into the air.

So, then, by the name of ‘foxes,’ the crafty and cunning demons, and by the title of the ‘birds of the air’ these same proud demons are denoted.

As if he said, ‘The deceitful and uplifted demons find their habitation in your heart; i.e. in the imagination of pride,’ ‘but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head,’ i.e. ‘My humility findeth not rest in your proud mind.’

For as by a kind of flight that first bird lifted itself up, which said in the uplifted imagination of the heart; I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the North.  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.  I will be like the Most High (Is. 14:13).

Mark how he in flying sought the regions on high with pride.  This same flight also he recommended to the first of human kind [Adam and Eve] as well.  For they themselves by flying as it were tried to go above their own selves, when it was told them that they should taste and be like gods.

And while they seek after the likeness of the Deity, they lost the blessings of immortality, which same would not by dying have gone into the earth, if they had been willing to stand with humility upon the earth.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 19, 2 (on Job 28:20-21) @ Lectionary Central.

Mark the Hermit: Accept present afflictions for the sake of future blessings Saturday, Mar 5 2016 

St Mark the AsceticMarch 5th is the feast of St Mark the Hermit (Mark the Ascetic).

He who tests all things and ‘holds fast that which is good’ (1 Thess. 5:21) will in consequence refrain from all evil.

‘A patient man abounds in understanding’ (Prov. 14: 29); and so does he who listens to words of wisdom.

Without remembrance of God, there can be no true knowledge but only that which is false.

Deeper spiritual knowledge helps the hard-hearted man: for unless he has fear, he refuses to accept the labor of repentance.

Unquestioning acceptance of tradition is helpful for a gentle person, for then he will not try God’s patience or often fall into sin.

[…] Do not listen to talk about other people’s sins. For through such listening the form of these sins is imprinted on you.

When you delight in hearing evil talk, be angry with yourself and not with the speaker. For listening in a sinful way makes the messenger seem sinful.

[…] Accept present afflictions for the sake of future blessings; then you will never weaken in your struggle.

[…] All good things come from God providentially, and those who bring them are the servants of what is good.

Accept with equanimity the intermingling of good and evil, and then God will resolve all inequity.

It is the uneven quality of our thoughts that produces changes m our condition. For God assigns to our voluntary thoughts consequences which are appropriate but not necessarily of our choice.

[…] From a pleasure-loving heart arise unhealthy thoughts and words; and from the smoke of a fire we recognize the fuel.

Guard your mind, and you will not be harassed by temptations. But if you fail to guard it, accept patiently whatever trial comes.

Pray that temptation may not come to you; but when it comes, accept it as your due and not undeserved.

Reject all thoughts of greed, and you will be able to see the devil’s tricks.

He who says he knows all the devil’s tricks falls unknowingly into his trap.

The more the intellect withdraws from bodily cares, the more clearly it sees the craftiness of the enemy.

A man who is carried away by his thoughts is blinded by them; and while he can see the actual working of sin, he cannot see its causes.

It can happen that someone may in appearance be fulfilling a commandment but is in reality serving a passion, and through evil thoughts he destroys the goodness of the action.

When you first become involved in something evil, don’t say: ‘It will not overpower me.’ For to the extent that you are involved you have already been overpowered by it.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On The Spiritual Law, 145-149, 152-153, 156, 158-160, 161-170, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 120-121.

Antony the Great: Whoever you may be, always keep God before your eyes Sunday, Jan 17 2016 

saints_101_anthonyJanuary 17th is the feast of St Antony the Great.

When the holy Abba Anthony was living in the desert, he was in a state of melancholy (ακηδια) and his mind was darkened by a multitude of imagined things (λογισμων), and he said to God:

“Lord, I want to be saved, but these thoughts will not leave me alone. What shall I do in my trouble? How will I be saved?”

A little later, when he went outside, Anthony saw someone like himself, sitting and working, then rising from work and praying, and again sitting and plaiting a rope, then again rising for prayer.

It was an angel of the Lord, sent for the correction and insurance against stumbling of Anthony.

And he heard the angel saying, “Do this, and you will be saved.” And when he heard this, he had great joy and courage, and did this, and was saved.

When Abba Anthony meditated upon the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, saying, “Lord, how is it that some perish when short-lived, and some live to extreme old age? And why are some poor, and yet others rich? And why are the unrighteous rich, and yet the righteous are poor?”

And he heard a voice saying to him, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself, for these things are the judgments of God, and they will not benefit you to learn them.”

Someone asked Abba Anthony, saying, “What must we keep in order to be pleasing to God?”

And the elder answered, saying, “Keep what I tell you. Whoever you may be, always keep God before your eyes. And whatever you do, do it from the witness of the Holy Scriptures. And in whatever place you live, do not leave quickly. Keep these three things, and you will be saved.”

Abba Anthony said to Abba Poimen that this is the great work of man: “always to reproach himself for his own faults before God, and expect temptation until the last breath.”

The same said, “No one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven untempted.” He said, “Remove the temptations, and no one would be saved.”

Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What should I do?” The elder said to him, “Do not put your trust in your righteousness, nor regret past actions, but control your tongue and stomach.”

Abba Anthony said, “I saw all the traps of the enemy spread over the earth,” and groaning, said, “What can get through these?” And I heard a voice saying to me, “Humility.”

Antony the Great (c.251-356): Thirty Eight Sayings, 1-7 @ Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension.

Gregory the Great: “Then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot” Thursday, Sep 3 2015 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistContinued from here….

On Job 11:13-15.

So that ‘the face may be lifted up in prayer without spot,’ before the seasons of prayer everything that can possibly be reproved in the act of prayer ought to be heedfully looked into.

And the mind, when it stays from prayer as well, should hasten to shew itself such as it desires to appear to the Judge in the very season of prayer.

For we often harbour some impure or forbidden thoughts in the mind, when we are disengaged from our prayers.

And when the mind has lifted itself up to the exercises of prayer, being made to recoil, it is subject to images of the things whereby it was of it own free will previously burdened whilst unemployed.

And the soul is now as it were without ability to lift up the face to God, in that, with the mind being blotted within, it blushes at the stains of polluted thought.

Oftentimes we are ready to busy ourselves with the concerns of the world, and when after such things we apply ourselves to the business of prayer, the mind cannot lift itself to heavenly things, in that the load of earthly solicitude has sunk it down below, and the face is not shewn pure in prayer, in that it is stained by the mire of grovelling imagination.

Sometimes we rid the heart of every encumbrance, and set ourselves against the forbidden motions thereof, even at such time as we are disengaged from prayer.

Yet because we ourselves commit sins but seldom, we are the more backward in letting go the offences of others, and in proportion as our mind the more anxiously dreads to sin, the more unsparingly it abhors the injuries done to itself by another.

Whence it is brought to pass that a man is found slow to grant pardon in the same degree that, by going on advancing, he has become heedful against the commission of sin.

And, as he fears himself to transgress against another, he claims to punish the more severely the transgression that is done against himself.

But what can be discovered worse than this spot of bitterness [doloris], which in the sight of the Judge does not stain charity, but kills it outright?

For every sin stains the life of the soul, but bitterness maintained against our neighbour slays it. For it is fixed in the soul like a sword, and the very hidden parts of the bowels are gored by the point thereof; and if it be not first drawn out of the pierced heart, no whit of divine aid is won in prayer.

For the medicines of health cannot be applied to the wounded limbs, unless the iron be first withdrawn from the wound.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 10, 29-30 (on Job 11:13-15) @ Lectionary Central [slightly adapted].

Gregory Palamas: Spiritual Circumcision of the Heart Tuesday, Apr 1 2014 

Gregory_PalamasEven when your body does nothing, sin can be active in your mind.

When your soul inwardly repulses the evil one’s attack by means of prayer, attention, remembrance of death, godly sorrow and mourning, the body, too, takes its share of holiness, having acquired freedom from evil actions.

This is what the Lord meant by saying that someone who cleans the outside of a cup has not cleansed it inside, but clean the inside, and the whole cup will be clean (Matthew 23:25-26).

“Strive as hard as you can to ensure that your inner labour is according to God’s will, and you will conquer the outward passions” (Abba Arsenios, Apophthegmata Pateron 9).

If the root is holy, so are the branches (John 15:5). If the yeast is holy, so is the dough (Galatians 5:9).

“Walk in the spirit”, says Paul, “and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Christ did not abolish the Jewish circumcision but fulfilled it. He Himself says, “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5.17).

How did He do this? It was a seal, a sign and a symbolic way of teaching about cutting off evil thoughts in the heart….

The Jews…were reproached by the prophets for being uncircumcised in their hearts (cf.  Jeremiah 9:26; Romans 2:25).

Man looks at the outward person, but God regards the heart, and if it is full of foul or evil thoughts, that man deserved to have God turn away from him.

That is why the apostle exhorts us to pray without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8).

To teach us to strive for the spiritual circumcision of our hearts, the Lord pronounces the pure in heart and the poor in spirit blessed.

He stresses that the reward for this purity of heart is seeing God, and He promises the kingdom of heaven to the poor (Matthew 5:8, 3). By the poor He means those who live frugally and in need.

But it is not only such people whom He calls blessed, but also those who are like them in spirit, those who, because of their inner humility of heart and their good purpose, have arranged their outward life accordingly.

He forbids not just murder but anger, and commands us to forgive from our hearts those who sin against us. Nor will He accept the gift we offer unless we are first reconciled with one another and let go of anger (Matthew 5:21-24).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Lent,  from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009).

Bede the Venerable: St Cuthbert and the Hermitage of Farne Thursday, Mar 20 2014 

icon_bede-March 20th is the feast of St Cuthbert….

When Cuthbert had remained some years in the monastery, he was rejoiced to be able at length, with the blessing of the abbot and brethren accompanying him, to retire to the secrecy of solitude which he had so long coveted.

He rejoiced that from the long conversation with the world he was now thought worthy to be promoted to retirement and Divine contemplation: he rejoiced that he now could reach to the condition of those of whom it is sung by the Psalmist: “The holy shall walk from virtue to virtue; the God of Gods shall be seen in Zion.”

At his first entrance upon the solitary life, he sought out the most retired spot in the outskirts of the monastery. But when he had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict, and more remote from the eyes of men.

There is a certain island called Farne, in the middle of the sea, not made an island, like Lindisfarne, by the flow of the tide…, and then restored to the mainland at its ebb, but lying off several miles to the East, and, consequently, surrounded on all sides by the deep and boundless ocean.

No one, before God’s servant Cuthbert, had ever dared to inhabit this island alone, on account of the evil spirits which reside there: but when this servant of Christ came, armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, all the fiery darts of the wicked were extinguished, and that wicked enemy, with all his followers, were put to flight.

Christ’s soldier, therefore, having thus, by the expulsion of the tyrants, become the lawful monarch of the land, built a city fit for his empire, and houses therein suitable to his city.

The building is almost of a round form, from wall to wall about four or five poles in extent: the wall on the outside is higher than a man, but within, by excavating the rock, he made it much deeper, to prevent the eyes and the thoughts from wandering, that the mind might be wholly bent on heavenly things, and the pious inhabitant might behold nothing from his residence but the heavens above him.

The wall was constructed, not of hewn stones or of brick and mortar, but of rough stones and turf, which had been taken out from the ground within. Some of them were so large that four men could hardly have lifted them, but Cuthbert himself, with angels helping him, had raised them up and placed them on the wall.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Life of St Cuthbert, 17 @ Mediaeval Sourcebook.

Isaac the Syrian: Passionate prayer and mourning of the heart Saturday, Mar 8 2014 

Isaac the Syrian 3Protect the sinner without doing him wrong. But strengthen his courage for life; then the mercy of the Lord will bear you.

Support with your word the weak and the distressed in spirit whenever you can; then the hand that bears the universe will support you.

Participate with those who are suffering in heart, in passionate prayer and mourning of the heart; then before your demand a fountain of grace will be opened.

Be strenuous in prayer at all time before God, with a heart full of chaste deliberations mingled with passion; then He will preserve your mind from impure thoughts, so that the way of God be not disordered in you.

Occupy your gaze with constant intercourse with intelligent recitation of the scriptures, lest, on account of idleness, the sight of foreign things defile your look.

Do not tempt your mind, for the sake of examination, by consideration of impure seductive thoughts, thinking that you  shall not he vanquished; even wise men have been perturbed in this place and deviated.

Do not take fire in your bosom….

Without severe bodily trouble, it is hard for the untrained youth to be bound under the yoke of saintliness.

The sign of the beginning of darkness of mind manifests itself in the soul by dejection, in the first place with regard to service and prayer. For it is not possible that the way in your soul towards error should be opened if you had not fallen in this point first.

Then, being bereft of God’s help — which otherwise affords a way unto Him — you will easily fall into the hands of the foes. And further, being without care for the matters of excellence, you will be carried towards the contrary things in every manner. Departing, from any side, is the beginning of approaching to the opposite one.

Let the service of excellence be firm in your soul; meditate on it and so on. Show your weakness before God at all times, lest strangers come to examine your strength while you are separated from your helper.

The service of the cross is a double one. And this is in accordance with its twofold nature which is divided into two parts: patience in face of bodily troubles, which is accomplished through the instrumentality of the anger of the soul; this is called practice; and the subtle intellectual service, in intercourse with God, constant prayer and so on, which is performed with the desiring part and called theory.

The one purifies the affectable part by the strength of zeal; the other clears the intellectual part by the influence of the love of the soul, which is the natural appetite.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence, 1, 2, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 9-10 (slightly modified).

John Climacus: At the Fragrance of Humility All Anger and Bitterness Vanishes Thursday, Mar 6 2014 

ClimacusFreedom from anger, or placidity, is an insatiable appetite for dishonour, just as in the vainglorious there is an unbounded desire for praise.

Freedom from anger is victory over nature and insensibility to insults, acquired by struggles and sweat.

Meekness is an immovable state of soul which remains unaffected whether in evil report or in good report, in dishonour or in praise.

The beginning of freedom from anger is silence of the lips when the heart is agitated;

the middle is silence of the thoughts when there is a mere disturbance of soul;

and the end is an imperturbable calm under the breath of unclean winds.

Anger is a reminder of hidden hatred, that is to say, remembrance of wrongs.

Anger is a desire for the injury of the one who has provoked you.

Irascibility is the untimely blazing up of the heart.

Bitterness is a movement of displeasure seated in the soul.

Peevishness is a changeable movement of one’s disposition and disorder of soul.

As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats, so at the fragrance of humility all anger and bitterness vanishes.

Some who are prone to anger are neglectful of the healing and cure of this passion.

But these unhappy people do not give a thought to him who said: ‘The moment of his anger is his fall’ (Ecclesiasticus 1:22).

There is a quick movement of a millstone which in one moment grinds and does away with more spiritual grain and fruit than another crushes in a whole day.

And so we must, with understanding, pay attention. It is possible to have such a blaze of flame, suddenly fanned by a strong wind, as will ruin the field of the heart more than a lingering flame.

And we ought not to forget, my friends, that the wicked demons sometimes suddenly leave us, so that we may neglect our strong passions as of little importance, and then become incurably sick.

As a hard stone with sharp corners has all its sharpness and hard formation crushed by knocking and rubbing against other stones, and is made round, and in the same way a sharp and curt soul, by living in community and mixing with hard, hot-tempered men, undergoes one of two things:

either it cures its wound by its patience, or by retiring it will certainly discover its weakness, its cowardly flight making this clear to it as in a mirror.

An angry person is a wilful epileptic, who on a casual pretext keeps breaking out and falling down.

Nothing is so inappropriate to penitents as an agitated spirit, because conversion requires great humility, and anger is a sign of every kind of presumption.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 8 “on freedom from anger and on meekness”, 2-12, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Mark the Hermit: Sin is a blazing fire: the less fuel you give it, the faster it dies down Wednesday, Mar 5 2014 

St Mark the AsceticMarch 5th is the feast of St Mark the Hermit (Mark the Ascetic).

When you sin, blame your thought, not your action.

For had your intellect not run ahead, your body would not have followed.

[…] He who secretly mingles his own wishes with spiritual counsel is an adulterer, as the Book of Proverbs indicates (cf. Prov. 6:32-33); and because of his stupidity he suffers pain and dishonor.

Just as water and fire cannot be combined, so self -justification and humility exclude one another.

He who seeks forgiveness of his sins loves humility, but if he condemns another he seals his own wickedness.

Do not leave unobliterated any fault, however small, for it may lead you on to greater sins.

If you wish to be saved, welcome words of truth, and never reject criticism uncritically.

[…] To accept words of truth is to accept the divine Word; for He says: ‘He that receives you receives me’ (Matt. 10:40).

[…] Those engaged in spiritual warfare practice self-control in everything, and do not desist until the Lord destroys all ‘seed from Babylon’ (Jer. 27:16. LXX).

[…] Sin is a blazing fire. The less fuel you give it, the faster it dies down: the more you feed it, the more it bums.

When elated by praise, be sure disgrace will follow; for it is said: ‘Whoever exalts himself will be abased’ (Luke 14:11).

When we have freed ourselves from every voluntary sin of the mind, we should then fight against the passions which result from prepossession.

Prepossession is the involuntary presence of former sins in the memory.

At the stage of active warfare we try to prevent it from developing into a passion; after victory it is repulsed while still but a provocation.

A provocation is an image-free stimulation in the heart.

Like a mountain-pass, the experienced take control of it ahead of the enemy.

Once our thoughts are accompanied by images we have already given them our assent; for a provocation does not involve us in guilt so long as it is not accompanied by images.

Some people flee away from these thoughts like ‘a brand plucked out of the fire’ (Zech. 3:2); but others dally with them, and so get burnt.

Do not say: ‘I don’t want it, but it happens.’ For even though you may not want the thing itself, yet you welcome what causes it.

He who seeks praise is involved in passion; he who laments afflictions is attached to sensual pleasure.

The thoughts of a self-indulgent man vacillate, as though on scales; sometimes he laments and weeps for his sins, and sometimes he fights and contradicts his neighbor, justifying his own sensual pleasures.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On The Spiritual Law, 119, 124-128, 130, 134, 136-144, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 118-120.

Next Page »